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Selective abortion and neonaticide often occurred in the past when a child was unwanted either through the limited economic means of the parent, potential pariah status of having a child out of wedlock, or the gender issues in particular countries (ex: Saudi Arabia and China). However, the paradigm surrounding abortion and neonaticide has slowly been shifting wherein the concept of aborting a baby due to perceived genetic abnormalities is now considered as “acceptable” in some countries.
Due to its very nature, abortion is considered illegal in many countries; however, when framed under the concept of a child being born with a deficiency that would make them unable to become a productive member of society, what was once considered as illegal becomes legal. In essence, this promotes the concept that what gives a fetus the right to live is attached to whether they can contribute to society or not.
Those that are perceived to be a potential burden are viewed as “less than human” so to speak which supposedly justifies their apparent premature death via abortion. It can be argued that it is more humane to ensure that a fetus with severe genetic abnormalities is not born since this would prevent them from suffering in the future. However, several perspectives should be taken into consideration before acknowledging this as a practice that should be condoned.
Quality of Life and Genetic Abnormalities
The article Selective Abortion in Brazil explains the case of justifying selective abortion or neonaticide in cases where the capacity for a fetus to survive outside the womb is impossible. The article showed a case of a fetus having an abnormally severe case of anencephaly which would prevent it from being able to function properly once born (Diniz 65). The argument, in this case, is that abortion becomes justifiable given the emotional torture that the mother would experience simply to give birth to a baby that medical science states will die.
The article does have a good point since the right to life applies to the experiences, events, and actions that an individual will have from the moment they are born to the day that they die. In cases where they will die once they are born, the right to life does not necessarily apply given the lack of experience that will occur. However, by agreeing to the point of this article regarding quality of life being equated to the right to life, then it can also be argued that fetuses born with severe genetic defects that will allow them to live but would require extensive resources to do so should also be subjected to an abortion.
What the actions in this article hint at is the potential for the practice of genetic examinations occurring resulting in fetuses being aborted due to genetic defects. This is close to the practice of eugenics yet is applied to the unborn rather than those that are considered as “inferior.” Admittedly, the practice does have some logical sense to it since eliminating fetuses with genetic abnormalities would result in a society that has drastically fewer cases of people born with genetic ailments that would be transmitted to future generations. Not only that, but there is also the issue of individuals with genetic problems that prevent them from being productive members of society wherein they would require constant care and assistance even after they are in the 40s or 50.
By having these cases eliminated early before the fetus gestates, this would remove a portion of present-day society that is viewed as a burden. However, while this makes sense from a logical standpoint, it is horrific from a moral and ethical perspective given the fact that all individuals should have the right to life, regardless of the limitations they are born with.
The Right to Life
In comparison, the article “Abortion: the new Eugenics” vehemently opposes all aspects related to abortion or neonaticide and focuses on the moral and ethical impact that such practices would have on our society. While the article does acknowledge the benefits that would come from such a practice, it mentions that the price of these benefits would be a deterioration of what we perceive as being “human.” For the author, being human is more than flesh, bone, and genetics, it is a set of ideas that we live by which is reflected in our society (Fisher 160).
Yes, people should have a right to their bodies, but these rights should be coupled with a degree of wisdom and restraint. The article implies that the apparent wholesale commercialization of abortion distorts how human life should be viewed and prevents us from applying the necessary practices to assist those born with genetic defects and abnormalities. In essence, what is occurring is simply sweeping the problem away instead of dealing with it directly.
The only issue with this article though is that it fails to consider the social cost of discouraging abortion. There are simply some cases where a person does not have the economic means of raising a child which would result in that child receiving inadequate nutrition and care. Not only that, if you were to combine these lack of funds with a child that is born with special needs, this creates a recipe for disaster given the potential for abuse and neglect in these cases.
Diniz, Debora. “Selective Abortion In Brazil: The Anencephaly Case.” Developing World Bioethics 7.2 (2007): 64-67.
Fisher, Anthony. Catholic Bioethics for a New Millennium. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print.